In every role that we have in life there are sin-related challenges. Sometimes these are the same sin tendencies no matter what situation or role we’re in at the moment. On the other hand, it could also be that certain sin tendencies only come into play when we are exercising particular roles in our life.
Sin is hardly a popular subject, even in Christian churches. It is not unusual to hear that someone will in fact stay away from church because the preaching was on sin, and they don’t like being made to feel guilty. Perhaps as a consequence of that, the emphasis in some churches is placed invariably on things that will affirm people and not invite them to focus on their sin tendencies.
To perceptive observers, however, the question of sin is unavoidable. A good example is a book written in the late 70s by British journalist Henry Fairlie, entitled The Seven Deadly Sins Today, in which he freely admits that he’s not a believer and yet points out all the ways in which various kinds of sin are destroying society. Merely ignoring the problem will not make it disappear any more than ignoring any other kind of threat will cause that to disappear. It must be confronted with the power of Christ crucified.
Let’s look briefly at how sin might confront us in different roles. In particular let’s look at our roles as family members, as stewards of resources, as friends, and as professional people:
- As family members, one of the besetting sins that is so often weakening family life is wrath (vs. meekness). The records of divorce and family dysfunction are filled with stories about the explosive temper of one of its members. People who truly and sincerely love their family members and yet fail to confront this sin have been known to say or do things that have completely destroyed everything they have most deeply loved on this earth. When we feel lonely, we are also tempted to the sin of gluttony (vs. temperance). Filling the hole left by disconnected relationships we turn to food, drink or drugs. We are roughly four percent of the world’s population in America, yet we consume 50 percent of the world’s legal mood-altering pharmacological drugs and 2/3rds of the world’s illegal drugs.
- As stewards of resources, we see many instances of sloth (vs. obedience) or greed (vs. stewardship). Sometimes we read in the newspapers about the constant wrangling over public policy, usually in the form of what the government should do or not do. Without making a political point, it is worth wondering whether the government would have to be involved in certain things at all if people at the private level were taking seriously the issue of overcoming sloth or greed. The government and other agencies can do little more than deal with those problems after their consequences have taken effect. They are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, while it’s up to us at Christians to build the fence at the top.
- As friends and neighbors, the sins of envy (vs. contentment) and lust (vs. chastity) come to mind. Many friendships have been destroyed by the resentment that comes from someone else’s success or prosperity. Entire revolutions have been attributed to envy as a causative factor. As for lust, society is experiencing a tsunami of relevant imagery that is having powerful effect. It is reported that among working-class white families in America, only 37 percent of children are living with both their mother and father (compared to 96% in 1960). Surely the promotion through the media of an anything-goes ethos bears major responsibility.
- As professional people, as in many other roles, the question of pride (vs. humility) often rears its ugly head. We are trained by our world to base our identity on what we do, rather than what God does through us. Therefore, we are led away by Satan, our sinful natures, and this worldly system to achieve and accomplish things in our own strength, so that we might receive the glory. What a stark contrast to the life that God calls us to embrace, where He is guiding and empowering everything we say and do.
Let’s choose a bracing view of the tremendous power available to us as we deal with sin in all our roles in life. We have the duty and the opportunity to be dead to sin and alive to Christ and righteousness. Hear Martin Luther: “But what is God’s righteousness? It is when there is no longer any sin in us, and all our members and powers are subject to God, and used in his service that we can say with St. Paul (Galatians 2:20): ‘I live yet not I, but Christ lives in me.’ That happens when no sin reigns over us, but Jesus Christ alone with his grace.”